Ulster Bank League
Ballynahinch 26 Trinity 22
John Dickson reports from Wallace High School Lisburn
Ballynahinch will be delighted with the way they fought back in this top of the table clash at the Wallace High School grounds in Lisburn.
The school pitch was in great condition but the persistent drizzle was always going to make this encounter a tense one. In the opening exchanges the students from Dublin looked the more composed, their halfbacks Mick McLoughlin and Dave Joyce using the kick and chase game to great effect.
Out half Joyce opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a penalty goal for Trinity after referee John Carvill reversed a Hinch penalty for back-chat. The score remained at 0-3 until close to the half hour mark, Trinity managed to keep their discipline as Hinch infringed at the breakdown on several occasions. Jocye missed a shot at goal in the 28th minute but was on target 3 minutes later after Hinch were caught using their hands in a ruck, Joyce’s efforts taking the students 6 points clear.
This was a very physical encounter with no quarter given or asked by either side. Hinch got their first points on the board following their first serious attack in the 34th minute. The pack forced play into the visitors 22, Gavin Armstrong and Chris Napier working hard to prevent Trinity getting to the ball until they eventually strayed offside in front of their posts. Michael Lawton converted to close the gap to 3-6.
It was a hectic end to the first 40 minutes. A collapsed scrum in the 37th minute allowed Joyce to put another 3 points on the board to take the score to 3-9. Lawton and Joyce then added a further penalty each to leave the visitors leading 6-12 at halftime.
Whatever Derek Suffern and Charlie McAleese said at interval, it had the desired effect. The Hinch started the second half like a different team. They had a much greater intensity and played with a lot more accuracy. In the 48th minute James Thompson moved the ball across the Hinch backline to find Roger McBurney taking a great line. The big fullback made good ground pulling in defenders as they tried to stop him before he released the ball to Adam Craig who did extremely well to make it over in the corner for the first try of the game. Lawton added the extras from the touchline to take the Hinch into a 13-12 lead.
This score lifted the County Down men and when James Simpson smashed his way through a gap in midfield the Hinch pack poured through in the 51st minute. Jonny Simpson took play forward and almost made the line himself, But Blane McIlroy made sure the quick ball was flashed left with McBurney on the burst under the posts to crash over for the second Hinch try. Lawton added the extra two points to take Hinch 20-12 clear. Hinch failed to release a tackled player on the ground allowing Trinity to hit back with a fifth Dave Joyce penalty goal in the 58th minute, closing the gap to 20-15.
A kick through and chase by Stuart Morrow and James Thompson in the 63rd minute ended under the Trinity posts with Hinch being awarded a 5 metre scrum, but this great attacking opportunity was wasted when McIlroy was pinged for a crooked feed.
This let off visibly lifted the visitors and they quickly took play deep into the Hinch half of the field, where in the 65th minute, a clever counter attack led by fullback Dave Fanagan released winger Niyi Adeolukan who demonstrated some skilful running as he beat a number of Hinch defenders then raced clear to score and tie the game at 20 points apiece. Joyce added the extras to take the visitors back into the lead 20-22.
To their credit the Hinch men never let their heads drop. With 7 minutes remaining the Hinch scrum proved too powerful for the students to handle the home side winning a penalty, which Lawton converted to take his side back into the lead 23-22.
Hinch kept control of the ball as play entered the final 5 minutes and with just 2 minutes left on the clock the students frustration finally gave way and Lawton converted another penalty goal to take Hinch 4 points clear 26-22.
It was all Trinity in the final few minutes as they pressed hard for a winning score but great work from the Hinch pack secured possession at a crucial lineout and they managed to clear the danger and hang on for a very impressive and vital league win.
Elsewhere this weekend, Harlequins had a good win over Buccaneers at Deramore, Dungannon defeated Bruff at Stevenson Park while Malone lost to Blackrock and Ballymena to UCD both those games were played in Dublin.
In that shake up Hinch now move 8 points clear at the top with Harlequins closing in on Trinity who are 2 points ahead still in second place. Harlequins have been improving as the season has progressed so the visit to Deramore Park this Friday night is yet another big test for the Hinch men to pass.
Ballynahinch : 15 Roger McBurney, 14 Michael Lawton, 13 Stuart Morrow, 12 Robin Harte, 11 Adam Craig, 10 James Thompson, 9 Blane McIlroy, 8 David McGuigan, 7 Paul Pritchard, 6 Robert Greer, 5 Chris Napier, 4 James Simpson, 3 Jonny Simpson, Gavin Armstrong, Chris Stevenson (Captain).
Replacements: 16 Aaron Cairns, 17 Aaron Ferris, 18 Jonny Madden, 19 Andrew Harper, 20 Tim Morton.
Trinity : 15 Dave Fanagan, 14 Niyi Adeolukan, 13 Ciaran Wade, 12 Paddy Lavelle,
11 Neil Hanratty, 10 Dave Joyce, 9 Mick McLoughlin, 8, Jack Dilger, 7 Brian Du Toit, 6 Pierce Dargan, 5 Jack Kelly, 4 Colin McDonnell, 3 Martin Kelly, 2 Warren Larkin, 1 Ian Hirst.
Replacements: 16 James O’Donohue, 17 Ariel Robles, 18 Shawn Pittman, 19 Cameron Falcon, 20 Will Scott.